Today is Erev Rosh Hashana – the evening before celebration of the Jewish New Year. I’ve shared in past posts about the real meaning of this special holiday, which is called the Feast of Trumpets in the Bible. However, my personal health struggles, discussions with others, and current events have led me to see this holiday from a slightly different perspective.

Happy to exit 5783

For those of you who are not aware, Israel is facing a genuine crisis. The political situation is going towards the extreme right in ways many people never imagined. For those of you who, like me, need to look up the difference between the extreme right and left in Israel, let me give you a very general definition: basically, the right-wing is very conservative with a strong Orthodox Jewish orientation, and the left wing is more liberal with a strong emphasis on diversity and secularism.

The crisis faced by Israel is due to Bibi’s government which is extremely right-wing and includes many people of questionable repute. There are many issues at stake, and I think a rational person would say that there are rights and wrongs on both sides of the situation. But it is what everyone is doing with their rights that is wrong. The hatred and lack of respect between those who disagree politically is shameful and disturbing. The media is polarized, and like everywhere else in the world, whom to believe is a problem.

With everyone else in the country and looking at the many health challenges of the past years that I’ve faced, I am very happy to leave 5783 far behind.

New year but not new self

The problem is that we can leave behind the last year and move on, but leaving ourselves behind is, well, slightly impossible. You see, only Yeshua (Jesus) can change us from the inside out. Lifting the page of the calendar does not change us.

But on the other hand, do we – do I – really want to change? That is not as easy a question to answer as you would think. I have been discovering that deep down in my heart there are certain habits and thought patterns I’m just not that open to changing. Let me put it another way, I want God to change me, but I am not really interested in cooperating with the process. But this is Israel’s struggle as well. As I ponder this, I think of the lame man at the Pool of Bethsaida, and I realize we have judged the man harshly without realizing that the finger should be pointed at ourselves. So much of his story is not told, but what we do know is this, Yeshua still had mercy on him and healed him. He was responsible for his actions afterward. I think we are told this story to encourage us and to warn us: God does hear our prayers and answer them – but we remain responsible for how we respond to God. And here is another point I’d like you to ponder – only God knows the end of that man’s story. Maybe, just maybe, he eventually repented and understood what had happened and who had healed him, and he became a different man. As I think of his fate, I gain hope thinking about the brothers of Yeshua. They grew up with Him. They knew that no finger could be pointed at Him, yet only after the resurrection did they believe, and they were in the upper room on Pentecost too.

 On a seeming unrelated topic…

I had a recent discussion with an Orthodox colleague a couple of weeks ago. Discussing the situation in Israel, he pointed out that the real problem in Israel right now is “pointless hatred”. Then he went on to say something interesting, “This is the reason we lost the second Temple, pointless hatred between Jewish brethren. We have to stop hating if we are going to survive.”

I didn’t really understand what he was talking about until I listened to a very interesting YouTube video with Sheila Walsh. [If you are reading this post via email, you need to read this post on my website to see the link and watch the video.] An Orthodox Jewish woman explained the whole issue of pointless hatred. Simply, by 40 AD the Jewish people had divided into two groups: one wanted a more secular comfortable life and accepted Roman rule, the other was more extreme and wanted a stronger religious presence – but reformed from the corruption of the current leadership. The Jewish perspective is that God punished this hatred between brothers by allowing the Temple to be destroyed.

How could they have been so right and so wrong at the same time?

Full circle – do you want to be healed?

My understanding of the scripture is that the temple was destroyed because the Jewish leadership rejected Yeshua (Matthew 23:4–5) leading to a national rejection and hatred of Him. Yes, it was senseless hatred that led to the Temple’s loss and dispersion of the nation, but it was a senseless hatred of Yeshua, not just of each other.

Now, as I look at my nation and myself, and face the coming New Year, the question Yeshua asked the lame man seems more relevant than ever: “Do you want to be healed?”

Does the nation really want to be healed? Are they truly longing for God’s Messiah as defined in Isaiah 53 or will they continue to put their faith in human leadership that insists that the “suffering servant” is the nation itself and not a different servant – the Messiah?

But on a more personal level, do I really want God to heal my heart from the wounds that are holding me back in so many ways? Do I want to cooperate with God in letting go of lies I heard my whole life that led to a warped body image? Do I want to cooperate with God in permanently building new healthy habits? Or, like the lame man, will I continue to say, “But Lord, this is the only way I know, my whole life growing up no one taught me healthy habits; it’s too hard now, I can’t do it.”

Cooperate with Yeshua in 5784

Soon I’ll be going out to join my congregation in our annual New Year celebration. But I want to celebrate with the right heart. As I write this post, I think it is a form of public accountability – to you, my friends, family, and readers: I want to cooperate with Yeshua in 5784 – and for the rest of my life. But it starts with today, which in the end, is all I have.

I hope you will join me in the New Year, laying down the excuses and actively cooperating with Yeshua in His work in our lives. We are in this together.

Shana Tova – Happy New Year

I hope you are as encouraged as I was by this movie with Sheila Walsh.
(This is not an endorsement of her teaching or of the TBN network [for those who were wondering.])